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Music School May Be Latest Victim of Riot : The L.A. violence is blamed for the decision to close the Van Nuys campus and replace it with a smaller facility.

August 07, 1992|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles riots may have claimed another casualty--the Grove School of Music.

School officials blame the violence for leading to the decision in June to close the Van Nuys institution and replace it with a smaller school in Woodland Hills.

"The riots were the final straw," said Todd Ferguson, vice president of the newly formed Grove Center for Contemporary Music.

Ferguson said the defunct Grove, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer, depended on anticipated tuition from foreign students for the July session to stay afloat. But when about 25 students from abroad called to delay their enrollment for at least a semester, there was not enough remaining funds to keep the school open. Grove shut down with outstanding debts of about $1.5 million.

"June's income was vital to us," said Ferguson, who was Grove's administrator. "We were expecting about $250,000 that didn't come. It would have come in September, but that was too late."

After closing, school officials immediately opened the new facility in July, taking nearly 100 of Grove's 400 students. The faculty was slashed from 60 to 12, and the staff from 28 to eight. Two former Grove students donated $75,000 to pay for the initial capital expenses of the new school.

The curriculum was scaled down to guitar, keyboard, composing and arranging, and recording engineering. Classes in songwriting and vocal music will begin in October. Students who majored in drums or bass--the only two programs eliminated--transferred to another music school or changed their field of study. Some lost thousands of dollars in tuition.

"We couldn't save everybody," said Dick Grove, who founded the school in 1974 in Studio City. "But we saved as many as we could."

Grove said students are eligible for compensation through a state tuition recovery fund. He conceded, however, that he was told by officials in Sacramento that due to the current financial crisis it's unlikely students will be reimbursed soon. Grove said students from the former school will be offered lifetime credits toward free tuition at the new center.

"I don't feel good about what happened," Grove said, "but I don't feel responsible. I didn't cause the riots or the recession."

Some students, however, believe Grove has acted irresponsibly by opening a new school, and should have instead sold its musical equipment to pay them back. Eliot Waldhorn of Argentina, who studied guitar for six months at Grove, said he lost about $4,000 in tuition fees.

"There's something wrong there," said Waldhorn, 21. "They opened another school, and I lost money."

Ferguson said the school hopes to receive accreditation within six months. He said its eventual profits will be used to pay back teachers who didn't receive checks before Grove closed.

"We wish we could satisfy everyone," Ferguson said, "but if we assumed all the debts, there would be no new school. The students can try to get money from the state and they have free credits here. The teachers don't have that option."

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